FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The fourth-ever Syracuse Press Club award for public agencies that fail to be transparent
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Syracuse Press Club is unhappy to announce the recipient of its fourth-ever [REDACTED] Award – an award for a public agency that most undermines the public’s right to know.
SPC has selected the Oneida County Board of Elections for the prestigious prize after nominations from members of the working press in and around Central New York.
Josh Rosenblatt, a senior reporter at Binghamton’s WBNG 12 News, nominated the county for its remarkable incompetence and dogged commitment to withholding public information during the closely watched 22nd Congressional District race.
“The BOE went the entire month of November without answering a phone call!” wrote an impressed Rosenblatt. “In the race for NY-22, it has consistently failed to answer any questions myself and other reporters have had.”
Oneida County’s failures in the 22nd race are now well-documented, but they wouldn’t have come to light without a legal battle and a committed press corps. Apart from their notorious failure to process thousands of voter registrations in time, they also refused to respond to interview requests and public records requests, further undermining Oneida County voters’ faith in their sacred right to vote.
“We got several nominations from journalists for Oneida County’s elections board, and we made sure to process them on time. Those votes definitely counted, and Oneida County was the clear winner. Congratulations to them!” said SPC President Katrina Tulloch, using air quotes around “congratulations.”
In addition, the Syracuse Press Club has awarded a dishonorable mention to New York State’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Robert Harding, a journalistic tour de force of Central New York, selected the state agency among many he could have nominated for a dizzying over-complication of a simple request:
“In July 2019, The (Auburn) Citizen asked DOCCS for two (we thought) simple bits of information: The number of inmates who were moved from Butler Correctional Facility to other prisons when Butler closed in 2014 and the costs of maintaining the facility since its closure.
In response to our inquiry, DOCCS said we would have to submit a FOIL request,” Harding wrote, marveling at the bureaucracy.
DOCCS “fulfilled” the request a full year later, saying the Citizen shouldn’t have filed a FOIL request:
“Your letter does not request copies of existing documents,” the state wrote to Harding. “For this reason, your letter is not covered by the Department’s Freedom of Information guidelines.”
The two public agencies are worthy additions to a vaunted list of other obtuse organizations, including the Onondaga Community College, Syracuse Police Department, New York State Department of Health, Syracuse University and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
To join us in celebrating, visit syracusepressclub.org/news/redacted-awards
The Syracuse Press Club is Central New York’s largest professional organization for news media members.
Nominations are open for Syracuse Press Club’s fourth annual [Redacted] Award, an award given to highlight public entities that most undermine the public’s right to know. Journalists from across Central New York are encouraged to nominate agencies, institutions or elected officials for their misbehavior in 2020. Nominations can be submitted for regarding an agency that has, for example, dragged its heels on public records requests, stonewalled requests for interviews or took liberties with the truth in matters of public importance. The Syracuse Press Club board will consider nominations and then vote on which agency deserves the prestigious prize.
Previous winners include:
In 2019, the New York State Department of Health, for delays in public records requests *(dis)honorable mention to Syracuse University
In 2018, the Onondaga Community College: For stonewalling the release of public information regarding taxpayer money spent in a settlement
In 2017, the Syracuse Police Department, for indifference to public records requests and consistently declining to comment on matters important to the public *(dis)honorable mention to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets